The Guelph Gryphons opened their OUA women's hockey league semifinal with a 2-1 victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks Wednesday night at the Gryphon Centre.
"It's so hard to come back after you lose that first game," Gryphon coach Rachel Flanagan said. "We've been there before in playoffs - against this team. There is a lot of history with us and getting that first victory under our belt was really important. We thought the girls responded well in the third period. We challenged them and they responded."
Second game in the best-of-three series is to be played Friday night at Waterloo.
"This is super important for us, especially now that we're going on the road," Gryphon goaltender Valerie Lamenta said. "Getting the first win at home really allows us to get our momentum going and we know what we expect now from Laurier."
Lamenta made 16 saves in the Guelph net for the win.
"It's going to take a tipped puck or a lucky bounce or hit somebody in the face to go in on her," Flanagan said. "They know that, too, so they're throwing things to the net. She's been a rock for us. She's been solid and our job is to make sure they don't get those tips and bangs and stuff in front of the net. If they want to score a highly-skilled goal on her, they can try. But we can't let them take us to the net hard and get those freebies in front."
"I just tried to battle through those screen shots," Lamenta said. "Every single save builds my confidence and builds the team's confidence so just making sure making those key saves, especially when it was a tie game allowing us to get the lead in the third."
Lamenta was aided by her teammates who picked up their defensive play in the third period to keep Laurier at bay as the Golden Hawks were limited to five shots on net in that period.
"Defensively we had to tighten up and that's where I'm most proud of the girls for responding because they threw pucks at (our) net and they couldn't get sticks on them," Flanagan said. "That's what we challenged the girls to do and we're going to have to do it through the whole series."
After a scoreless first period, the teams scored once apiece in a span of 79 seconds early in the second period. Guelph scored the lone goal of the third to claim the win.
Christine Grant and Mackenzie Wong fired in a goal apiece for the Gryphs while Jessica Pinkerton, Leigh Shilton and Marcie Landman each had an assist.
Erika Kiviaho netted the goal for Laurier.
The result means the Gryphs will have at least one more home game. If Laurier wins Friday, the third and final game of the series will be played at the Gryphon Centre Sunday starting at 4 p.m.
If the Gryphs win Friday, they'll host the single-game OUA McCaw Cup championship game March 12 against the winner of the other semifinal between the Western Mustangs and Nipissing Lakers.